For so long, products for itchy scalps and dandruff were a one-to-one operation. See a flake? Pick up a cheap, clunky bottle of shampoo from the drugstore and breathe in the smell of dads everywhere. Tried and true formulas get the job done, and have been with us through thick and thin, but—make no bones about it—dandruff shampoo isn’t exactly the chicest product in the shower. We push it to the back of the caddy.
But no longer! With more info than ever about the importance of crown health (and horror stories about dry shampoo’s dark side), scalp products are stepping up their game. Although most scalps are self-sustaining entities, dermatologist Heidi Waldorf, M.D., says a halo of flakes is worth paying attention to. Persistent scratching can lead to hair loss, says Hadley King, M.D., a dermatologist at Skinney Medspa in New York City.
But if you’re not feeling the one-size-fits-all options, there’s still hope. If you fit the bill—or just want to upgrade your shower game, they’re that good—it’s worth a browse through the stylish, fancy-AF-looking scalp products we’re currently keeping front and center.
1. If You’re Tagging #TopShelfies
Cake’s scalp tonic is currently sold out on Sephora’s website, which is the best way to sell us on anything. Working from a formula of Swiss apple stem cells and eight essential oils, this leave-in treatment is a good intro to the scalp world. Dr. King says that essential oils do have anti-inflammatory properties, which reduces irritation and inflammation, and will be less drying to your hair than more powerful flake-fighting formulas.
2. If You’re Not Trying to Shower Again
Briogeo’s new scalp line is pretty chic and delivers on the anti-inflammatory front—studies have found that tea tree oil is a soothing way to kill the yeast bacteria that causes flake central. This option’s ideal if you’re going into day three postshower and want a bedtime fixer-upper. Dr. King says that the longer products are on your head, the better they’ll work, so this nighttime treatment gets it done without forcing you to hop in the tub.
3. If You Want a Nonchemical Option
This gritty sea salt scrub has a cult following and 311 glowing Sephora reviews, but the derms we spoke to had mixed opinions on physical head scrubs as a whole. While Dr. Waldorf is in favor of salicylic acid to tackle dandruff, Dr. King says that if that kind of chemical exfoliant isn’t your favorite, scrubs like Robin’s could do the trick instead by clearing out the buildup and dead skin that can cause inflammation. The label doesn’t mention it, but in our professional skin-picking experience (truly sorry, derms), the salt feels good under your nails. And you have to get it off! Any excuse to pick.
4. If You’d Live in Coconut Oil If You Could
And bam, a combo of the prior two that’s made for mild-to-moderate scalp troubles. The mask accompanying Briogeo’s serum draws on “vegetable-derived micro-exfoliators” to remove dead skin and buildup. Dr. King says the addition of coconut oil will help you moisturize an itchy scalp and soften flakes.
5. If You Find Yoga Position Names Very Soothing
Aveda’s little turquoise bottle homes in on the powers of lactobacillus, which the brand says preserves your scalp’s natural protective barrier; seaweed extract, to help control and balance sebum levels; and tamanu oil, which they say protects your scalp from pollution and other free radicals. It’s also very pretty, a benefit Dr. King says not to discount: Beautiful products keep us hooked and paying attention to our scalp health. This packaging style is also one to look for, with a dropper tip that squirts the ingredients right where you need them.
6. If You Want to Moisturize Scalp to Tip
This oil-based spray wasn’t made for dandruff but to tackle dry skin. If you’re constantly manipulating your hair for different styles, it incorporates a plethora of moisturizers like jojoba oil, sweet almond oil, argan oil, rose hip seed oil, and castor oil to keep your roots hydrated, strong, and frizz-free.
7. If You Want Strong Ingredients but No One to Know
Chic and with all the dandruff-fighting properties of a traditional flake-targeting shampoo: Sachajuan’s formula includes salicylic acid, piroctone olamine, and climbazole to exfoliate skin and kick-start healthy cell turnover. Dr. King says the combo takes on yeast—if left alone, bacteria feeds off of it to create more inflammation and flakes. Boo.
-I Don’t Want Your Advice—Washing My Hair Daily Works Best for Me
-The Scientific Reason Your Hair Hurts When You Don’t Wash It
-Expert Advice on How to Treat a Flaky Scalp